Angela Cotey | Progressive Railroading

In the late 1800s, oil tycoon Henry Flagler traveled from his New York City home to Florida’s East Coast. His impression, according to historians? The state — and Atlantic coastline, in particular — had great potential for development and a booming tourist industry, but lacked transportation and hotel options. Flagler soon began pursuing his hotel-building and rail-development interests and, in 1885, bought the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Halifax Railroad.

The railroad purchase was the first in a series, followed later by rail extensions constructed farther south, that created what is now the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). The rail line helped spur the development of cities such as West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

In its current form, the 351-mile FEC operates from Jacksonville to Miami on the same right of way Flagler pieced together more than 125 years ago. And today, it’s considered the key to future mobility in Florida’s most populated Atlantic Coast cities. Roadways are heavily congested, and there’s no room to expand. Eastern Florida communities are bracketed by Interstate 95 on the west and U.S. Route 1 on the east. I-95 stretches 12 lanes across in some locations, with dense development on either side of the highway. U.S. 1 runs near the coastline and Intracoastal Waterway.

“If you look at our population growth, there are no other north-south roadways that will provide the capacity we need between 95 and U.S. 1,” says Amie Goddeau, mobility development manager for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT){….}